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Dr.Suma Alexander
Govt.Ayurveda College
Ayurveda, the science of life considers the creation of universe as the parinama ;
the different combination of trigunas. The causative factors of Parinama are Swabhava,
Iswara, Kalam, Niyati and Yathrucha. Ayurveda provides a special language for
understanding the primal forces of nature and show us how to work with them on all levels.
According to Yoga and Ayurveda, Nature consists of three primal qualities which
are main powers of cosmic intelligence and the most subtle qualities of nature that underlie
matter, life and mind. They are the energies through which not only the surface mind ,but
also our deep consciousness functions.
The tributes which are causative factors of creation of the Universe and which are
omnipresent are called Mahagunas or Parama padharthas or Trigunas ie. Sattva, Rajas and
Tamas. All objects in the universe consists of various combinations of Trigunas . Cosmic
evolution consists of their mutual interaction and transformation. They form a deeper level
than the three biological humors and help us understand our mental and spiritual nature and
how it functions.
Sattva, Rajas and tamas are the three foundations of all existence.

Sattva is the intelligence that imparts balance. Rajas is the energy that cause
imbalance and Tamas is the substance that creates inertia. Rajas is the active force in the
body. It moves organic universe to sattva and inorganic universe to tamas. Sattva and tamas
are inactive having potential energies .These two needs active and kinetic force of rajas.
Unique features of Trigunas.
1 Trigunas necessary for appearance of any substance requires raw materials and
2. They have no physical characters. Eg Roughness, Hardness.
3. Different patterns of behaviour in a group, prove its existence.
4. No physical, bio-chemical or serological test for behaviour pattern.
5. Omnisubstance combine in particular proportion at conception and affect total body.
6 Study of triguna is important to understand expression of pain. Physician must know the
response to pain stimulus is different in different persons.
7. Non material contributions are of prime importance in construction of total body and
study of total body functions.
Qualities of Trigunas

Sattva is the quality of intelligence, virtue and goodness, and creates harmony,
balance and stability. It is light and luminous in nature. It possesses an inward and upward
motion and brings about the awakening of the soul. Sattva provides happiness and
contentment of lasting nature. It is the principle of clarity, wideness and peace, the force of
love that unites all things together.
Rajas is the quality of change, activity and turbulence. It introduces a disequilibrium
that upsets an existing balance. Rajas is motivated in its actions, ever seeking a goal or an
end that gives its power. It possesses outward motion and causes self seeking action that
leads to fragmentation and disintegration. Rajas is stimulating and provides pleasure, owing
to its unbalanced nature, it quickly results in pain and suffering. It is the force of passion
which causes distress and conflict.
Tamas is a quality of dullness, darkness and inertia and is heavy, veiling or
obstructing in its action. It functions as the force of gravity that retards things and holds
them in specific limited forms. It possesses a downward motion that causes decay and
disintegration. Tamas brings about ignorance and delusion in the mind and promotes
insensitivity, sleep and loss of awareness. It is the principle of materiality or
unconsciousness to become veiled.
Role of trigunas in creation of universe.
Prakriti is trinity of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, which are dormant, when they are in
balanced state. When purusha and prakriti join each other the trigunas go out of balance
and excited to a great extent. Here Rajoguna due to its action and motion excites the
creativity of prakriti, in presence of purusha. It then activates the properties of knowledge,
light and minuteness and then give rise to intellect ie Mahana. Then to counteract the
aggravated sattva, tamoguna is promoted by Rajoguna, which reduces properties of
sattvaguna. Due to increased properties of tamas ie, affinity, heaviness and ahankara
becomes manifested by intellect ie mahana. Again due to influence of Rajoguna, Ahankara
is subdivided into Sattvika Ahankara (dominated by sattvaguna) and Tamasika Ahankara
(dominated by thamoguna).
The sense organs are derived from sattvika or vaikarika Ahankara. The organs of
actions, situated in the brain centers which controls speech, hands, anus and sex organs and
which are controlled by prana, udana, samana, vyana and apana are derived prominently
from rajasika or taijasika ahankara.
Tanmatras or basic subtle substance (rupa,rasa, gandha, sabdha, sparsa) and
panchamaha bhuthas (prithvi, ap, tejas, vayu, akasha) are derived from tamasika or bhutadi
ahankara. All the living and non living objects are derived from panchamahabhutas.

Mutual relationship of Trigunas
Sattva-Rajas-Tamas qualities always exists together, depend, on one another and
try to dominate one another, even though they have opposite qualities, very interesting
example of oil lamp is given as an explanation. The cotton wick, oil lamp and fire having
opposite qualities are responsible for the light of the flame, when work in coordination with
one another . Sattva enlighten Rajas and Tamas, Rajas stimulates Sattva and Tamas, Tamas
masks Sattva and Rajas.
Correspondences of the Three Gunas
Sattva Rajas Tamas
Color White purity and
Red action and
Black darkness and
Time Day, clarity Sunrise and sunset
twilight, transition

Night, darkness
Energy Neutral or balanced Positive, sets things
in motions
Negative, retards
Worlds Heaven or space, the
region peace
Atmosphere the
region of storms
Earth the realm the
realm of gravity and
Levels of
Causal or ideal Subtle or astral, pure
Gross or physical
Kingdoms of
Spiritual beings: gods,
goddesses and sagas
Human realm Mineral, plant and
animal kingdoms
States of
Waking Dream Deep sleep
Relationship between Trigunas and the Mind
The mind or consciousness in general, is naturally the domain of Sattva. Unless the
mind is calm and clear, we cannot perceive anything properly. Sattva creates clarity,
through which we perceive the truth of things, and gives light, concentration and devotion.
Rajas and tamas are factors of mental disharmony, causing agitation and delusion. They
result in wrong imagination and misperception. Rajas create desire, distortion, turbulence
and emotional upset. Tamas brings ignorance that veils our true nature and weakens our
power of perception. Sattva is the balance of Rajas and Tamas, combining the energy of
Rajas with the stability of tamas. By increasing Sattva, one gains peace and harmony and
returns to primordial nature and pure spirit in which is liberation.
When pure sattva prevails in our consciousness, we transcend time and space and
discover our eternal Self. The soul regains its basic purity and unites with God. When out
of balance, the three gunas bring about the process of cosmic evolution through which the
soul evolves through the kingdoms of Nature, experiencing birth and death, happiness and
sorrow in various bodies. The movement of the three gunas is coterminous with creation.

Characters of Doshic mind in relation to Trigunas
Trigunas are found in nature and mind paralleling tridoshas of body.
Sattva or purity in mental state produce calm, alert, kindness and thoughtfulness in persons.
Rajas (too active) are always seeking diversions.
Tamas produce dull and lethargic mind.

Just as doshic combination, trigunas has combinations in mind.
Individuals with Sattva Rajo predominance are those who are enthusiastically study
spiritual and holistic measures to improve themselves.
Individuals with Rajas-Tamo predominance will actively work and exercise to
overcome their lethargy.
Mental balance and development of purity and peace develop mind towards a
Sattivik nature of mind. This is the first stage of Samadhi or spiritual realization
Vathika mind
Conditions Characters
Balanced Cheerful, Creative, adaptable
Imbalanced Worried ,nervous ,fearful, giddy

Fear ,anxiety ,insecurity , easily deceived with threats and promises
Not much courage , few intimate friends , not a good leader, not
Sattva influence
Comprehension, need for unity & healing .Also creates a positive mental
Rajas influence
Indecisiveness, unreliability , hyperactivity , anxiety
Tamas influence
Fear, a servile attitude , dishonesty , depression ,self destructiveness,
addictive behaviour, sexual perversion, animal instincts or suicidal
Paithika Mind
Conditions Characters
Balanced Good oriented, powerful, warm, athletic
Imbalanced Burnt out, angry, impatient, irritable, critical.

Fiery emotions like irritability, anger, hate, determined, articulate,
convincing, try to dominate others with their will and ideas. They are self
righteous, may become fanatical, good leaders, ambitious, work hard to
achieve goals. They help families and friends, but are cruel and unforgiving
to enemies. Bold, adventurous, daring, enjoy challenges, have much clarity
but they lack compassion.
Clarity, intelligence, leadership, warmth and independence.
Willfulness, ambition, anger, manipulation, vanity, impulsiveness and
Vindictiveness, violence, hate, criminality and psychopathic behaviour.
Kapha mind
Conditions Characters
Balanced Strong, loyal, love to cook for others
Imbalanced Lethargic, hoarding, overly materialistic


Emotional, full of love, desire, romance, sentiment and negative emotion of
lust, greed, hard to adapt to new situations and loyal, many friends , close to
their families, communities religion, they are comfortable in practical
knowledge than abstract ideas.
Calmness, peace, compassion, faith , nurturing, forgiveness
Greed for money, material luxuries and comfort. They are too sentimental,
controlling attached and lustful.
Dullness, sloth, lethargic, depression, lack of care and tendency to steal.
Mental types according to gunas.
According to Charaka, there are three types of Mental constitution

Sattvic people possess a harmonious and adaptable nature which gives the greatest
freedom from disease, both physical and mental. They strive towards balance and have
peace of mind that cuts off the psychological root of disease. They are considerate of others
and take care of themselves. They are considerate of others and take care of themselves.
They see all life as a learning experience and look for the good in all things, even in
disease, which they strive to understand, not merely to suppress.
Rajasic people have good energy but burn themselves out through excessive
activity. Their minds are usually agitated and seldom at peace. They have strong opinions
and seek power over others, often regardless of the means. They are impatient and
inconsistent in dealing with their problems and do not wish to take the time or
responsibility to get well. They blame others for their problems, including their therapist.
Rajasic people can accomplish their goals and are generally in control of their lives.
They are not awake to spiritual purpose and are dominated by the ego in their pursuit of
happiness. Life brings them shocks which can cause them great suffering, particularly when
they lose control. Even when they achieve their goals, they find that they are still not happy.
Tamasic types have deep seated psychological blockages. Their energy and emotion
tend to be stagnant and repressed, and they do not know what their problems really are.
They do not seek proper treatment and usually have poor hygiene or poor self care habits.
They accept their condition as fate and do not take advantage of the methods that may
alleviate their problems. They allow other people and negative influence and dominate
them and do not like to be responsible for their lives. They prefer not to deal with their
problem or will not others know about them which only allow the problem to get worse.
Mental constitution chart
The gunas show the mental and spiritual state through which we can measure our
propensity for psychological problems. The following chart is a good index of these
qualities and how they work within our life and character.
Conditions Sattvic
Tamasic constitution
Diet Vegetarian Some meat Heavy meat diet
Drugs, alcohol and
Never Occasionally Frequently
Sensory impressions Calm, pure Mixed Disturbed
Need for sleep Little Moderate High
Sexual activity Low Moderate High
Control of senses Good Moderate Weak
Speech Calm and
Agitated Dull
Cleanliness High Moderate Low
Work Selfless For personal goals Lazy
Anger Rarely Sometimes Frequently
Fear Rarely Sometimes Frequently
Desire Little Some Much
Pride Modest Some ego Vain
Depression Never Sometimes Frequently
Violent Never Sometimes Frequently
Love Universal Personal Lacking in love
Attachment to money Little Some A lot
Contentment Usually Partly Never
Forgiveness Forgives easily With effort Holds long term
Concentration Good Moderate Poor
Memory Good Moderate Poor
Will power Strong Variable Weak
Truthfulness Always Most of the time Rarely
Honesty Always Most of the time Rarely
Peace of mind Generally Partly Rarely
Creativity High Moderate Low
Spiritual Study Daily Occasionally Never
Mantra, prayer Daily Occasionally Never
Meditation Daily Occasionally Never
Service Much Some None
Psychological Constitution
All of us possess both good qualities ie. Sattva guna and bad qualities of mind ie.
Tamo and Rajo guna. Depending on the predominance of guna we can divide them into
I. Tamobhuyishta or tamasi in whom tamo gunas dominates.
II. Rajobhuyishta or rajas in whom rajas qualities dominates.
III. Sattvabhuyisyhta or sattvika in whom sattva guna dominates.
IV. Trigunatita who has perfect control and mastery over sattva, rajas and tamas qualities.
V. Ideal A person with a perfect control of mind, having all the good qualities of mind
and who works for the well being of society.
These people are less intelligent, in a depressed frame of mind and generally prone to
laziness. The slightest mental exertion tires them easily. A common feature is a tendency to
feel sleepy even during the day. They take the path of least resistance and are given to mere
eating, drinking, sleeping and sex. They are extremely greedy, irritable and do not have
consideration for others. They may go to the extent of harming others to safeguard their
own interests. In these people Id dominates over ego and super-ego.
i) Pashava Sattva (Animal constitution)
These persons have forbidding disposition and are not intellectual and disgusting in
their behaviour, dress and dietetic habits. The enjoy sex and sleep. They cannot ascertain
any decision.
ii) Matsya Sattva (Fish constitution)
These persons are stupid, greedy, unstable and coward. They enjoy and are after
quarrels, food, water and sex. They do not bother about others and can be harmful. They
have many children.
iii) Vanaspatya Sattva (Vegetable constitution)
They are lazy and cling to one place. They are devoted to eating. They are devoid of
mental faculties and lack truthfulness, pity and enjoyment. They bear sorrow,
environmental changes and physical torture without reacting to it.
These people are egoistic, proud, and ambitious and have a tendency to rule over
others. They are loquacious and though hardworking, their endeavours lack proper
planning and direction. Their mental make up is not as strong as that compared to the
sattvabhuyishta group. Emotions like anger, joy, attachment, jealousy etc. dominate their
personality. They are prone to emotional outbursts and hence their mental energy is wasted.
They require 8 hours of sleep. They are calm and patient only as long as their interests are
not affected. They are good, friendly and faithful only to those who are helpful to them. In
these people, ego usually dominates over Id and super ego.

i) Asura Sattva
These persons are affluent, valiant, brave, jealous, and gluttonous and enjoy eating without
sharing with others. They enjoy position of authority and wealth but are terrifying, ruthless,
greedy and enjoy finding faults with others. They are kind to people, who praise them.
ii)Rakshasa Sattva
These persons are jealous of others. They hate, mark time and then strike. They are cruel,
greedy and inordinately fond of non-vegetarian food. They are fierce and solitary in habits.
They appear pious externally. They do not forgive others.
iii) Pishacha Sattva
These persons are voracious eaters, enjoy meat and are fond of keeping company with
women in secret. They are impure, unclean and coward and enjoy bullying and frightening
others. They are irritable, rash, shameless and suspicious.
iv) Sarpa Sattva
These persons are coward but brave when excited. They are touchy, of an indolent
disposition and arouse fear in the persons around. They enjoy food, sex, sleep and licking
lips. They are irritable and easily get excited. They remember their enmity for a long time.
v) Preta Sattva
These persons are proud and fond of food and sleep. Their character, conduct and
pastimes are notorious and miserable. They are envious and cannot discriminate between
right and wrong. They are covetous and disinclined to work. They fail in carrying out their
duties. They are ugly and have deformed body, face and mind.
vi) Shakuna Sattva
These persons have strong attachments. They are constantly devoted to delights of
eating and sex. They are fickle, unintelligent and coward and change their place of
residence like birds.
Thus, the six varieties of rajas type are tinged with passion.
These are the people who have a steady and pure mind. They have a religious bend of
mind and follow the path of truth and righteousness. They stand out by their good manners
and good character. They possess a great degree of self control and do not get easily upset
or angry. Even considerable amount of mental activity does not result in mental fatigue.
They need hardly 4 hours of sleep. They respect their teachers and are always trying to
improve their knowledge, proficiency and skill. They are capable of taking correct
decisions after careful and mature thinking which is derived from a clear intellect.
Religious by nature, they have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and take a detached view
of problems. In sattvika people the super ego dominates over Id and ego.
i) Brahma Sattva (Saint like constitution)
These persons are purely devoted to truth, firmly believe in the existence of God
and read Vedas regularly. They have good control over self and are endowed with
knowledge, understanding, and power of exposition .and good memory. They are free from
desire, anger, greed, conceit, infatuation, envy, dejection and intolerance and are equally
well disposed to all creatures.
ii) Arsha Sattva (Sage like constitution)
These persons are devoted to sacrifice, study, vows, sacrificial offerings and
celibacy. They are hospitable, intelligent, learned and devoid of pride, conceit, attachment,
hatred, infatuation, greed and anger. They are endowed with genius, eloquence,
understanding, and memory. They are kind and have good control over their desires and
iii) Indra Sattva or Mahindra Sattva
These persons have personality of rulers or administrators and are devoted to the three
aims, namely dharma, artha, and kama. They act brave, energetic and endowed with
splendour, wealth, servants, magnanimity and foresight. They enjoy worldly pleasures,
simultaneously following righteous and virtuous path. They are learned, talk with authority
and enjoy discussions with masters in the subject.
iv) Yama Sattva
These persons have firm mind, good memory and are free from attachment, anger,
illusions, fear, malice, hatred and pride. They are courageous and enjoy authority and
power. They treat friend and foes alike. Their righteous actions are always carried out in a
determined manner.
v) Varuna Sattva
These persons are valiant, virtuous, courageous, brave, clean and intolerant of
uncleanliness. They are devoted to the performance of sacrifices, fond of aquatic sports
and exposure to cold, and are given to pursuits which are not blame worthy. They have
brown iris, golden hair and sweet speech. They get angry very fast, but can be made quiet
vi) Kubera Sattva
These persons command status, honour, luxuries and attendants. They are devoted to
the constant pursuit of virtue, wealth, pleasure, cleanliness and recreation. They get angry
easily and favour those whom they like. These persons are good arbitrators of disputes and
have capacity of bearing hardships. They are after honour, money, house and enjoyments
but are religious.
vi) Gandharva Sattva
These persons are fond of dancing, perfumes, songs, music, praise and are well versed
in poetry, anecdotes, history and legends. They are constantly addicted to the pleasure of
fragrant perfumes, garlands, ointments, women and recreation. They are wealthy and do not
envy others.
Thus, the sattvika is of seven varieties. They are all of the beneficial kind. The first
variety, the brahmika is to be considered the purest for the beneficent aspect of the mind is
perfectly represented in it.

Trigunatita a person who, has mastered all the mental process. He has no desires,
aversions, emotions and attachments. As he has no desires or aversions he performs his
activities without expecting any returns. With full control over his emotions, all attempts
to make him angry to frighten him or to make him elated prove futile. Even Menaka, the
most beautiful woman cannot provoke his sex instinct. He is a fearless person, not even
afraid of death. Free from all attachments, he renounces all worldly pleasures. He is least
concerned about what the society thinks of him. He has ceased to think in terms of self or
society. As he has lost his identity he is neither happy when honoured nor unhappy when
insulted. He is engrossed in elevating his own mental level and lies in his own realm of
peace and happiness. A sannyasi, who has renounced all worldly pleasures and spends his
life in meditation, is a trigunatita person.
An ideal person should have all the qualities of head and heart of the trigunatita and
the Sattvik personality. Complete and full detachment of the former should happily
combine with friendly, helpful and social nature of the latter. He places service before
self. Though detached, he performs all his activities in a masterly manner for the benefit
of his fellowmen and upgrading of society. Lord Krishna may be cited as an example of
an ideal person. Krishna's detached attitude to life is well depicted in the following
episode, which took place, when he was at the tender age of twelve. Kamsa, the maternal
uncle of Krishna was king of Mathura at that time and was a tyrant. He came into power
by imprisoning Ugrasena, the rightful ruler. Krishna, when twelve years old, killed
Kamsa. The people of Madura were grateful and happy to be relieved of Kamsa's tyranny
and wanted Krishna to become king. Though possessing the ability and wisdom to rule
the kingdom, Krishna refused. Detached as he was, he handed the kingdom to Ugrasena
the rightful ruler and left Madura. Throughout his life there are many such instances in
which he fought for justice, played the role. of a king-maker but never accepted the role
of a ruler.
Krishna had exemplified perfection in many spheres like music, philosophy, politics,
war etc. Even animals and birds were enchanted by the melodious notes that flowed from
his flute. The victory of the Pandavas in the epic battle of Mahabharata was stage managed
by him. Arjuna, the most renowned warrior of his time could not stand up to Krishna in
battle. In a duel between Krishna and Arjuna, Arjuna was humiliated in no time. The
Bhagvad Gita, one of the most phenomenal philosophical discourses of all time, was
narrated to Arjuna by Krishna in a few hours on the battle front. The teachings of the
Bhagvad Gita and the life of Krishna depict to us what an ideal man should be.
Trigunas and its relation with Body
Body is formed by the union of Sarira, Atma and Manas. Karma purusha so formed
can perform its function as joy, sorrow, desire, Intellect etc the sixteen qualities or

shodashakala explained by kashyapa. The body is made up of Panchamahabhuthas which
inturn is made up of Trigunas. According to Susrutha

Mahabhutas Constituent Gunas
Prithvi Tamas
Ap Sattva and Tamas
Agni Sattva and Rajas
Vayu Rajas
Akasa Sattva
Diet and Mental Activity of Brain
Vata, pitta and kapha molecules form the structural units of all the cells including
nervous tissue and brain. In all organs except brain, the same vata, pitta, and kapha
molecules also constitute the functional units of the cells. In the nervous tissue and brain sattva,
rajas and tamas constitute the functional units. Continuous supply of sattva particles is
essential for proper functioning of mind and intellect, as sattva particles are constantly utilised
in the process of thinking, reasoning, imagining, conceiving new ideas etc.
Similarly continuous supply of rajas particles is essential for proper functioning of
pranas, i.e. motor life principles,. as rajas particles is constantly utilised in the formation
and propulsion of various nervous impulses. Tamas particles also are equally important; as
men enjoy sleep and the brain rests only when tamas dominates.
Diet is the source of supply of sattva, rajas and tamas particles to the brain cells. Diet
like milk, fruits, butter and ghee are abundant in sattvika particles. Pungent, sour and hot
food items are rich in rajas particles. Stale and putrefied food is rich in tamas particles.
It is only the cells of nervous system, which have the ability to digest vata, pitta and
kapha molecules and utilise sattva, rajas and tamas particles present in them.
The most highly evolved cells of the brain, which require sattva, rajas and tamas
particles for their functional activity, loose their generative capacity just as an ascetic
engrossed in penance unknowingly
observes celibacy throughout his life.
The ability to convert food particles
into sattva, rajas and tamas particles is limited in persons born with inferior quality of
brain or in persons in whom the brain is damaged as a result of injury or disease process.

Food Types Character
Easily digestible, Fresh, ripe, cooked in quick and simple method, cows
milk, ghee, butter, moderate amount of food, fruits etc
Highly spicy, pungent, sour, hot, excessive sweet, strong beverages, food
suppression, Meat.
More quantity and quality than Rajasa food, Stale and putrefied food.

Role of Trigunas in health and Healing.
Sattva at the state of balance is responsible for all true health and healing. Health is
maintained by Sattvic living, which is living in harmony with Nature and our inner Self,
cultivating purity, clarity and peace. Rajas and Tamas are the factors that cause disease.
Rajas cause pain, agitation and the dissipation of energy. Tamas brings about stagnation,
decay and death. Rajas cause pain, agitation and the dissipation of energy. Tamas brings
about stagnation, decay and death. Rajas and Tamas usually work together. Rajas bring
about the over-expression of energy, which eventually leads to exhaustion, in which tamas
For example, too much spicy food, alcohol and sexual indulgence are initially
Rajasic or stimulating. These eventually lead to such Tamasic conditions as fatigue and
collapse of energy. On a psychological level, too much Rajas, which is turbulent emotion,
leads to Tamas or mental dullness and depression
Trigunas and chikitsa.
Many different types of medical and healing therapies exist for the mind. To
benefit from them properly and to avoid their possible side-effects, we must
understand their approach and when they are useful. Here Ayurveda helps us greatly
by showing how healing therapies relate to these trigunas. This provides us with a
deep understanding of the healing process and its likely results.

Sattvic therapies work through Sattvic qualities of love, peace and nonviolence.
Rajasic therapies work through Rajasic qualities of stimulation, energization and
agitation. Tamasic therapies work through Tamasic qualities of sedation, sleep and
grounding. Ayurvedic therapies are primarily Sattvic and employ Rajasic and Tamasic
modalities only under special circumstances.
Sattvic healing uses Nature, the life force and the power of the cosmic mind,
through such treatment methods as herbs, vegetarian diet, mantra and meditation. Rajas can
occasionally be useful in the healing process. Rajas helps break up Tamas, while Sattva,
being a condition of harmony, does not always have the ability to do so. It is often nec-
essary to move from Tamas to Rajas in order to return to Sattva, like needing to stimulate
or shock a person into awakening to their repressed pain. Tamas is seldom useful in the
healing process except when required to sedate too high Rajas. For example, a person in
hysteria, an excess Rajas condition, may require a strong sedative herb or drug, a Tamasic
therapy. In this case Sattva would be too mild to calm Rajas.
Ayurvedic psychology aims at moving the mind from Tamas to Rajas and
eventually to Sattva. This means moving from an ignorant and physically-oriented life
(Tamas), to one of vitality and self-expression (Rajas), and finally to one of peace and
enlightenment (Sattva).
Three Stages of Mental Healing
1) Breaking up Tamas / developing Rajas - moving from mental inertia to self-motivated
2) Calming Rajas / developing Sattva - moving from self-motivated action to selfless
3) Perfecting Sattva - moving from selfless service to meditation.
Naturally it is important to know what stage is appropriate for a person. A person in a
Tamasic condition requires outer activity to break up their inertia, he or she cannot simply
be asked to sit quietly and meditate. At such times Rajasic (active) methods are necessary
and Sattvic (passive) methods may not be sufficient. The person requires communication
and working with other people.
A person in a Rajasic condition, however, requires a reduction of activity and
interiorization of consciousness (development of Sattva). Yet this must be done gradually
because Rajas does not subside all at once. The person must be introduced into meditation
through practical therapies of yogic postures, mantras or visualizations. A person in a
Sattvic condition requires spiritual practices and not ordinary psychological treatment, and
can easily move into meditation without much external support.
However, these three stages are not simply different levels. We all have Tamasic,
Rajasic and Sattvic factors in our minds. We all need each of these three processes to some
degree. There are times when our minds are Tamasic, like right after waking up in the
morning or when day dreaming in the afternoon. Whenever we are mentally dull or
emotionally depressed, Tamas is predominant. Rajas prevails when we are agitated,
disturbed, active or outgoing, like when we are very busy working with a number of people
or projects. Sattva prevails when we are quiet, peaceful and content, or naturally fall into
Similarly we should not judge other people by how they appear when dominated by one
quality only. Even a spiritually advanced person has Tamasic moments or periods when he
or she may do something regrettable. In the same way, spiritually undeveloped persons
have Sattvic moments when they may do something inspired, noble or kind. When looking
at ourselves, we should try to see all three factors in our nature and behavior and try to
develop our Sattvic side.
Breaking up Tamas / Moving from Tamas to Rajas
For this transition, Agni is necessary. We must wake up, act and begin to change.
Deep seated patterns of attachment, stagnation and depression must be released. We must
recognize our suffering and learn from it, confronting our pain, including what we have
suppressed or ignored for years. A new sense of who we are and what we need to do is
required. Action (Rajas) is indicated, not only in the mind but involving outer aspects of
our lives. We must break with the past, bring new energies into our lives, perhaps change
jobs or modify our relationships, or move to a new surroundings.
Calming Rajas / Moving from Rajas to Sattva
For this transition, Akasha is necessary. We must surrender our pain and give up
our personal seeking, letting go of individual hurts and sorrows. Egoistic drives and moti-
vations must be surrendered for the greater good. We must depersonalize our problems and
look to understand the entire human condition and the pain of others. Leaving behind our
personal problems, we must take up the problems of humanity, opening up to the suffering
of others as our own. We must learn that life creates suffering in order to help us grow
spiritually. This is a stage of service and charity.
Developing Pure Sattva
To bring about this transition, we must develop love and awareness as
universal forces. We must learn to transcend the limitations of the human condition to
our higher spiritual nature. Inner peace must become our dominant force. We should
no longer seek to overcome our pain but to develop our joy. We should no longer be
centered in our personal or collective problems but in developing communion with the
greater universe and the divine powers at work within it. At this stage we move from
the human aspect of our condition to the universal aspect, becoming open to all life.
This is the stage of spiritual practice. It is beyond all ordinary healing and works to
heal our relationship with God or the inner Self.
To conclude the Trigunas according to Ayurveda is a basic part of our body and
mind. The knowledge of it in-depth is very vital for self correction and approaching patients
in a psychological and physiological pattern as a physician. Health is maintained by Sattvic
living which is living in harmony with nature and our inner Self, cultivating purity, clarity
and peace. This can be achieved by the proper knowledge and application of Trigunas in
our lives.